The general atop U.S. Space Command told federal lawmakers Tuesday that he doesn't know how much it would cost to uproot his headquarters to Alabama or how many of the command's civilian workers -- two-thirds of his staff -- would follow it south.
During a Senate hearing, Gen. James Dickinson said the command now plans unspecified incentives to entice civilian workers to Huntsville, Ala., but couldn't address whether his command will be more successful than the Missile Defense Agency, which lost 80% of its civilian workforce when it shifted it headquarters from Virginia to Alabama.
"I can't give you a prediction of what that percentage will be," he told lawmakers.
On the cost of moving the command, Dickinson couldn't offer a price tag.
"I don’t have exact numbers or estimates on the cost of the move to Huntsville," he said. "That’s actually now being determined by the Department of the Air Force."
The answers didn't satisfy Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, who plans to further grill the general during a House Armed Services Committee hearing set for Wednesday.
"Attrition results when a move is made to a place that people don't want to move to -- that should be a big concern," Lamborn said Tuesday.
Dickinson did say the Peterson Air Force Base command, which is set to move to Alabama in 2026, faces growing threats in orbit even as leaders plan to pack up.
"Over the past two decades, an increasingly assertive China and a resurgent Russia worked to develop advanced technologies to erode core U.S. military advantages, such as power projection and rapid, global, space-enabled precision fires," Dickinson said in remarks.
"Their militaries actively integrate advanced space and counterspace technologies into multidomain warfighting strategies to challenge U.S. regional superiority, position themselves as space powers, and create improved balance of power dynamics in their (vicinity)."
Lamborn said he's worried that leaders will lose track of their responsibilities in space while they are packing the office furniture in Colorado Springs.
"Doing a move right now doesn't make sense fiscally or militarily," Lamborn warned.
The move has been a target for congressional criticism since it was announced Jan. 13.
In one of the final acts of the Trump administration, leaders announced the Huntsville move for the command. It came after a start-and-stop process that ended with the White House making the final decision, overruling recommendations from military leaders, several sources have told The Gazette.
The planned move is the subject of investigations by the Pentagon's Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle questioned its wisdom. Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper continued his criticism of the move Tuesday.
"Moving Space Command without knowing the costs is irresponsible," Hickenlooper said in via email, calling for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to suspend the move until investigations are finished and congress can review the process.
The move does have its fans. Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville praised it during the Senate hearing Tuesday.
"General, I am looking forward to you calling the great state of Alabama your home," Tuberville told Dickinson during the hearing.
A native of Estes Park, Dickinson is a graduate of Golden's Colorado School of Mines. Despite his deep Colorado ties, Dickinson has defended the move, along with other Pentagon leaders.
On Tuesday, though, Dickinson talked more about Russia and China than relocating his headquarters to Alabama's Redstone Arsenal.
Russia and China have displayed growing capabilities to target American satellites. Russia, for instance, has tested a pair of satellites that could attack their U.S. counterparts in Space and also has fielded ground-based lasers that can temporarily blind some American surveillance satellites.
The increasing military competition in orbit comes as space grows more crowded by the day. Companies including SpaceX are fielding constellations of thousands of satellites in low orbit to deliver data to users below. And the launches mean junk is piling up in space, with the Colorado Springs command now tracking 32,000 objects in space from satellites and the International Space Station to loose bolts and discarded rocket boosters.
The growing commercial reliance on space means a war in orbit could be more disastrous for people on the ground.
The U.S. military has long relied on satellites for communication, navigation, intelligence and targeting. Now businesses need satellites for everything from processing transactions to tracking shipments.
"Commercial opportunities open new possibilities, but can also complicate access to the domain with the proliferation of mega constellations," Dickinson said. "As commercial satellite constellations expand and begin pushing out beyond geosynchronous orbits, it becomes increasingly important to understand the domain and to manage burgeoning traffic."